Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Novel Writing Software

I am a proud panster. Outlines are for high school projects and plotters, but not for me. For years this happy panster has allowed the words to just flow and for the characters to find their way to the end of the story all on their own. 

Then I met Dabble. This online-only novel writing software is available through monthly subscription. Unlike downloadable novel writing software for which you pay a flat fee, your monthly subscription fee allows for constant updates so you don't need to pay to buy updated software in the future. I can't say that I've used Scrivener, Storyist, Squibler or other novel writing software in the past, so I can't compare features.

What made me decide to move forward with a free trial of Dabble?

A) I am re-writing a novel from the beginning, so I know how many plot points, characters, and scenes that need tracking.

B) I want to finish this novel.

We all have to find a way to motivate ourselves to keep writing despite all the distractions in our daily lives. If you've found a way to do that, congratulations! I am still one of those seekers--looking for a way to tune out all the noise around me to get from first page to last. 

Dabble allows me to stay organized and keep all my story notes in one place. You can create scenes, add plot points, create a plot grid, build your world, and keep miscellaneous notes, and then you can write your story. I find managing the writing process this way to be more effective, and I get way more excited about it as I see it come together on the screen.

Does a writer need novel writing software? No. It is a tool just like any other tool in our writer's toolbox. If you're at a point where you're struggle to keep up with all your plot points, characters, and scenes, it might be worth taking a look at one of the many novel writing software programs out there. Just like shoes, one size doesn't fit all. 

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at and her children’s book blog at

Sunday, August 2, 2020

The 3 Levels of Picture Books

Picture books have 3 levels or purposes in regard to the reader and purchaser. Think of it as the structure of a house: there’s a basement, a first floor, and often an upper floor.

Level 1: The basement, or Surface Level, is geared toward the youngest reader (or listener if too young to read). This child is able to understand what’s going on. He is engaged by the story.

Using a wonderful children’s picture book, Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, the child will think it’s funny that monkeys take the peddler’s caps, put them on their heads and won’t take them off.

Level 2: The first floor, or the Underlying Meaning Level, is for the older children who can understand on a deeper level. At this age, they can realize danger, anger, and a cause and effect scenario.

Again, using Caps for Sale, the children should be able to understand that the monkeys are mimicking everything the peddler does, but the peddler doesn’t realize what they’re doing. With this age child, he/she may yell out, “They’re doing what you do!” in an effort to help the peddler.

Level 3: The upper floor, or the Take Away Level, is the value the book holds for the purchaser, usually the parent, grandparent, or teacher. The adult reading the book to the child understands the meaning of the story, what value can be taken away by children.

In the case of Caps for Sale, the young child is engaged and understands the monkeys took the peddler’s caps and wouldn’t give them back. The older child is engaged and understands that the peddler is causing the monkeys to act as they are. The value that might be taken away is that our actions create reactions.

I just want to point out that Caps for Sale was first copyrighted in 1940 and renewed in 1967, so there is a great deal of telling in the story.

Back then, writing for children used a different structure. The stories were not geared toward today’s short attention span and need for action. But, some stories, such as this one, hold up even through change.

Keep in mind though, in today’s children’s market a writer must take into account that a child is bombarded with media and entertainment. Children’s publishers want showing rather than telling. They also want action right from the beginning of the story. In today’s market it’s the writer’s job to grab the reader quickly.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. Check out her middle-grade book, Walking Through Walls, and her new picture book series, The Adventures of Planetman.